Slide Deck Insanity

In recent years I find myself spending more and more time staring at PowerPoint slides.  I'm either:
1.  Preparing a presentation and working on the supporting slides.
2.  Sitting in meetings watching a PowerPoint presentation.

I've always felt that I could present things reasonably well, but I've never had a lot of confidence preparing presentation slides.  I find myself futzing with them to no end and I usually fall into the trap of tweaking each slide relentlessly until minutes before the presentation.

Recently I attended a meeting where three different architectural options were laid were reviewed pertaining to a new feature in a future release.   The meeting was scheduled to be an hour long and there were 15 people in attendance.  When the presenter put the slide deck up on the projector it quickly became clear that the meeting wasn't going to be very productive... the slide deck was 65 slides long!  20 minutes into the meeting we were only through slide number three... and all we had done to that point was to read the mountains of text piled onto each slide... you can see where this is going.  In the end it took an additional three meetings over the course of four weeks before a decision was made. 

Because of this experience (and other similar ones) I picked up a book called "Presentation Zen" by Garr Reynolds.  What a find!  I'm not through the entire book yet but I'd already recommend it to anyone who gives presentations of any kind - not just PowerPoint.  presentationzen His insights and direction are brilliant and have opened my eyes to what goes into making a good presentation.  At the end of chapter three Garr provides a few summary bullets I felt were worth mentioning:

  • Slow down your busy mind to see your problem and goals more clearly.
  • Find time along to see the big picture.
  • For great focus, try turning off the computer and going analog.
  • Use paper and pens or a whiteboard first to record and sketch out your ideas.
  • Key questions:  What's your main (core) point?  Why does it matter?
  • If your audience remember only one thing, what should it be?
  • Preparing a detailed handout keeps your from feeling compelled to cram everything into your visuals.

Each one of these bullets immediately resonated with me and are helping me to put together better presentations.   You can read more about Garr's ideas at